Major problems for our Iraqi missions programs
By William J. Murray, Chairman
The general manager of the ministry that carries out our programs in Iraq is currently in the United States and may not be able to return to his base in Erbil except by dangerous means.
He and his wife (for security reasons I cannot use names) arrived in the United States on a special visa the last week of September. The purpose of their travel was to speak with the various ministries in the United States who support them and their organization in Erbil, which is located in the Kurdish region of Iraq.
While they were in Washington, DC I arranged an off-the-record meeting for Maher with an official with the State Department, and with other ministry organizations that can help them. I also arranged meetings with Senate offices on Capitol Hill.
On September 25th the Kurds held an “independence vote.” The Kurdish voters overwhelmingly voted to create an independent state. The reaction of the Iraqi government was to close the borders of Kurdistan and shut down airline operations into the Kurdish region including the Erbil airport.
Bottom line: The airline tickets they have to return to Erbil cannot be used to fly to Erbil.
(See update below)
They can, at a cost, change the tickets to fly into Baghdad but then would have to make a very perilous journey of 400 kilometers from Baghdad to Erbil by ground transportation. Currently the routes go through areas that are not totally safe from Jihadists and bandits.
Please pray for Christian workers in Kurdistan and all the areas of Iraq. They work hard to minister to the persecuted Christians of the Nineveh Plain.
How will our Christmas program be affected?: This will be the sixth year of RFC’s Christmas program. This year we will be our sixth year in Jordan, our fifth year in Lebanon and our third year in Iraq. Each year I have been at each location to oversee the program.
As of now I have no way to get into Iraq for Christmas. Until now, I could fly directly into the Kurdish region without an Iraqi visa. Now, because there are no direct flights to Erbil, I would have to fly to Baghdad first, which would require an Iraqi visa. The Iraqi government is NOT issuing visas to those who state their destination is in Kurdistan.
Worse, the Kurdish and Iraqi armies that together were fighting the Islamic State are now squared off against each other in the oil rich Kirkuk Governorate. The Iraqi Army has already pushed the Kurds out of the city of Kirkuk proper. Please pray that this situation with the Kurds and Iraqis is resolved without a full-scale war in which the Christians will suffer the most.
As of today, we are still able to get supplies into Iraq from Turkey, but we do not know how long that will last. I have sent some funds to our partners in Iraq to purchase in advance some items needed for the Christmas program. We can probably obtain everything needed in the next few weeks except the food for the meals at the Christmas events for the children.
Please pray for the Christians of the Nineveh Plain, particularly the children who have suffered so much already.
UPDATE: (11/1/17) Our ministry partner and is wife have safely returned to Erbil after flying to Baghdad and getting a driver to Kurdistan. Ministry functions are slowly returning to as normal as they can be with border issues continuing.
The Iraqi military has taken control of most border crossings from Turkey and Iran so supplies are flowing again but not at a normal rate. The international airport to Erbil is still closed. Our costs for the Christmas program have increased beyond the budget we have raised funds for.
The airline tickets for our American staff to travel to Erbil, Iraq in December to assist with the program there are now worthless unless Kurds hand over control of the airport to the Iraqi government which at this point does not look promising.
Please help to proved a real Christmas for Christian children displaced after the destruction of their homes by the Islamic State.